The television presenter was bemoaning the fact that lemons were in short supply. She was worried about her gin and tonic. Which surprised me. As a middle-age woman, it shouldn’t have been the G and T she was concerned about. Instead she should have been concerned how the lack of lemons in her diet may be impacting negatively on any hot flushes or changing cardiac health she may be experiencing as she navigates her mid-life years.
The origin of citrus fruits goes back to at least 2200BC and almost all of them were related to trpical and sub-tropical regions of south-east Asia prior to dispersion into other continents. Whilst the nutritional components of citrus are a fairly recent investigation, anecdotally, their value as contributing to the health of humans have been known for hundreds of years.
‘The lemon fruits have numerous bioactive compounds, and the juice of lemon possesses more than 200 compounds which involve regulators of the human body. However, lemon and sweet orange juices have a wide range of bioactive compounds controlling about 60-70% of liver diseases through control of lipids.‘ [Abobatta, 2019).
For women in mid-life and beyond, all citrus fruits are an important component of our diet as we age. Don’t let anybody sway you because they may not have your cardiac health and ageing blood vessels in mind! Lemons and other citrus fruits, especially blood oranges, mandarins,limes, bergamot and other varieties of oranges are full of bioactive compounds that help your heart, blood vessels and hot flushes during your menopause transition. They are a major component of the Mediterranean Diet and with menopause heralding in your ageing, you need these compounds for your health. If you can’t get lemons as seems to be the case in New Zealand right now according to the TV presenter, then buy oranges and mandarins instead.
My coaching group is full of women from around the world and this week I’m focussing on MyMT™ at Work … and how they can set themselves up with good habits to restore work-life balance. This topic is given a lot of discussion in workplaces these days, but putting work-life balance strategies into action at work AND home, is hugely challenging for women who aren’t sleeping and having lots of hot flushes. Are you one of these women? If you are, then what you eat and when you eat is important, not only for your energy levels, but also to help you to turn down the heat in menopause. Feeling stressed dials-up your blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn cause you to over-heat. If you aren’t sleeping or if you already have high blood pressure, or you are overweight, then the heat production increases.
One of the hallmark changes during our menopause transition is the fact that we experience hot flushes (called hot flashes in many countries) and night sweats. There’s a reason for this and it’s all to do with the loss of oestrogen reducing the elasticity in our blood vessels as we move through menopause. With our blood vessels also being on a circadian pattern, then when we don’t sleep well, this makes our night sweats worse.
Many of you already know from following my blogs (thank you), I’m always talking about a condition known as ‘arterial stiffness’. As women age and go through menopause, cardiovascular risk increases because the loss of oestrogen also affects the walls of our blood vessels.
In the video below, which I made at the commencement of summer here in New Zealand, I talk to you about the nutrients that help to reduce arterial stiffness. I thought that seeing as you were starting the year, and whether you are in the Southern or Northern Hemispheres, you might like a little reminder about what I was saying. It’s less than 10 minutes long, so just watch it when you have time.
Relatively new research has emerged suggesting that yes indeed, we need to put in place strategies to reduce arterial stiffness during our menopause years and have citrus which is also known to help reduce platelet clumping leading to blood clots. Achieving this can impact positively on our blood pressure, weight and LDL cholesterol (the type of cholesterol linked to narrowing of the arteries). This new research suggests that there is a connection between arterial stiffness and hot flushes/ night sweats, so helping our blood vessels to become ‘less stiff’ may help to reduce the frequency of hot flushes and night sweats too. That’s where the intake of Liminoids from lemons and other citrus come into play.
CITRUS AND YOUR HEALTH:
Citrus fruits have well-documented nutritional and health benefits. They have been present in the diet of the peoples living on the Mediterranean region for many centuries and are a main feature of the Mediterranean diet. All citrus fruits including lemons, contain Limonoids and to date around 300 limonoids have been isolated in nature with citrus fruits being the highest, especially from the peel. (Preedy & Watson, 2020). Limonoids have high biological activity and are known to prevent diseases such as cancer. According to Preedy and Watson (2020), ‘in this sense, the limonoids present in citrus fruits can prevent the formation of tumours by stimulating the enzyme glutathione S-transfereases (GST).’ (p. 300). In other words, limonoids help to fight the cancer cells, and if you’ve had oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer, then please take note – ‘limonoids have been shown to strongly inhibit the proliferation of human breast cancer cells (Preedy & Watson, p. 300). I let all my ladies know this if they have been treated for breast cancer.
Citrus fruits do not possess sodium, fat and cholesterol, but are sources of several minerals (potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper), vitamins (C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9), dietary fiber and secondary phytochemicals (carotenoids, phenols, including flavonoids, coumarins, limonoids, alkaloids and essential oils) which alone or in combination have been referred as being able to prevent inflammation, degenerative diseases, heart disease and even cancer. [Duarte, Fernandes et al, 2016].
Potassium is an important mineral that is highest in lemons (Preedy & Watson, 2020). Not only does potassium help to maintain the body’s water, acid balance and normal blood pressure, but it is important in transmitting nerve impulses to muscles as well as in muscle contraction. I’m always talking about the importance of this powerful mineral when women come into the MyMT™ programmes and have been experiencing aching legs, cramps and even palpitations. If you are someone who is frustrated that you can’t tolerate exercise the way you used to, or you have changing heart health, then I hope you can join me sometime. 12 weeks might just change your life.
Then of course, there is the high amount of Vitamin C in citrus. This plays a key role in the absorption of inorganic iron, which can aid in the treatment of anaemia – some of you with heavy periods in peri-menopause, need to get your iron and ferritin (stored iron) levels checked if your fatigue and hot flushes are getting on top of you. And for those of you who continue to do heavy exercise as you transition menopause, then Vitamin C from citrus is also important in the formation of collagen. A deficiency of this vitamin is responsible for the weakness of those tissues in which collagen is an essential element (ligaments, tendons, dentin, skin, blood vessels and bones). But it’s not just about your muscles (including heart muscle) and joints, it’s about the role of these powerful bioactive compounds from citrus fruits on your hot flushes too.
Hot flushes and night sweats and the connection between arterial stiffness and changing blood pressure during menopause, is an important connection I want you to make.
If you have more that 10 hot flushes or sweats a day, then this is linked to a higher level of arterial stiffness (Yang et al, 2017). That’s why I have this short video for you below, which I shared at the start of December with you – if you missed it, then I’ve loaded it up again. In it I talk about the nutrients you should be having daily in order to lower your blood pressure and reduce arterial stiffness.
Arterial stiffness occurs because we are losing the role of oestrogen in the epithelial lining of our blood vessels. As such, our arteries lose some of their ability to rebound and this makes them ‘stiffer’. This affects the blood flow or pulse wave velocity (speed). The pulse-wave velocity is the measurement of arterial stiffness or the rate at which pressure waves move down the blood vessel. It is well known that with increasing age and our transition into post-menopause, blood vessels become stiffer and the speed at which the pressure wave moves through the system increases because there is less resistance from the blood vessel wall.
These lifestyle solutions for navigating menopause are often forgotten about and I didn’t know about them either. As women in mid-life, we have become invisible when it comes to understanding how to look after ourselves, and that’s what I’ve taken care of for you. My 12 week programmes continue to offer you a discount whilst the world has turned to chaos. Please use the promo code ATHOME21 – you can read about them HERE. They differ depending on whether you are thinner or leaner or you have some weight to lose.
Millions of women get placed on HRT and anti-depressants in menopause or are spending hundreds of dollars in endless supplements. I did this too. But as I began to question whether these strategies were actually working for my health, I began to realise that the women’s health and ageing research wasn’t being reflected in the medicalisation of menopause. Nor was our changing cardiac and cardio-vascular health being discussed – as I mention in the video, our blood vessels are impacted not only with the decline of oestrogen, but they are on a circadian cycle as well. Therefore, the nutrients we have in our diet to reverse this aspect of our biological ageing matters.
So, to the lovely television presenter who was be-moaning the loss of lemons in her G and T, she needs to go buy some other types of citrus instead to help reduce the effect of menopause on her ageing blood vessels.
Thank you for joining me in my newsletter community. I love that you are here with me and your commitment to learning about the incredible changes in our body that occur as we transition through menopause into the next phase of our life – our post-menopause years. Have a listen when you can.
Abobatta, W.F. (2019). Nutritional Benefits of Citrus Fruits. Am J Biomed Sci & Res., 3(4). AJBSR.MS.ID.000681.
Attlee, H. (2015). The land where lemons grow: The story of Italy and its citrus fruits. Great Britain: Particular Books Publ.
Harvard Bioscience, Pulse Wave Velocity. Sourced from:
Ji H., Kim A., Ebinger J., Niiranen T., Claggett B., Bairey Merz C., Cheng S. (2020). Sex Differences in Blood Pressure Trajectories Over the Life Course. JAMA Cardiol. 5(3):19-26. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2019.5306.
Preedy, V. & Watson, R. (2020). The Mediterranean Diet: An Evidence-based Approach. 2nd Ed. London, UK: Elselvier Academic Press
Tanaka H., Palta P., Folsom A., Meyer M., Matsushita K., Evenson K., Aguilar D., Heiss G. (2018). Habitual physical activity and central artery stiffening in older adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. J Hypertens.36:1889–1894. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001782
Yang, R., Zhou, Y., Li, C. et al. Association between pulse wave velocity and hot flashes/sweats in middle-aged women. Sci Rep 7, 13854 (2017).